Dealing With High Cholesterol During Pregnancy

5 min read

Written by Pradeep


Dealing With High Cholesterol During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, your health is very important for both you and for the proper development of the baby. Issues like elevated cholesterol levels can be of concern. Dealing with high cholesterol during pregnancy is not hard as you think. High cholesterol can be easy to deal with medicines in non-pregnant women. But when you are pregnant it can be harder to manage the same. It is quite normal for the cholesterol levels to increase at a certain point during pregnancy, even if you have been maintaining normal cholesterol levels during the pre-pregnancy period.

On the other hand, for women who have already been battling with high cholesterol before getting pregnant, the cholesterol levels can climb significantly higher during pregnancy. But the good news is that there are different ways to manage the cholesterol levels throughout pregnancy and if they are followed properly, the elevated cholesterol levels will not affect the health of both the mother and the baby.

In This Article

Causes of High Cholesterol Levels During Pregnancy

As pregnant women undergo a lot of hormonal changes during pregnancy, the cholesterol levels tend to rise from the first trimester itself and peak during the third trimester. There is no need to panic as in most cases the levels get back to normal in a couple of months post-delivery.

Increased cholesterol levels are purely the body’s mechanism to aid healthy pregnancy. An increased cholesterol level has a significant role in the production and proper functioning of steroid hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, which are vital for carrying a pregnancy to term.

Likewise, the developing fetus utilizes cholesterol at a higher rate for a healthy brain, limb, and cellular development. It is also important in the production of healthy breast milk.

What Is The Normal Cholesterol Level During Pregnancy?

What Is The Normal Cholesterol Level During Pregnancy_

To prevent the risk of heart disease, normally the cholesterol levels should be between 120-190mg/dl. However,  it is quite normal that cholesterol levels increase by 25 % to 50% while pregnant. It will usually peak during the third trimester.

Therefore 200 to 239mg/dl is considered borderline high and above 240 is considered as high during pregnancy. However, there is nothing to worry about as a high cholesterol level is not considered a significant issue. Also, it is not treated unless a woman possesses an extreme cardiovascular condition.

Treatment is mandatory if the reading shows an increased risk of health issues that hinders the normal progression of pregnancy. Fortunately, if the cholesterol level increases, it is the HDL (good cholesterol) that shows an increase more than the LDL (bad cholesterol).

How Does High Cholesterol Level Affect Pregnancy?

  • High cholesterol levels in pregnant women increase the chances of pregnancy-induced hypertension, which is a potentially dangerous condition that can trigger preterm birth
  • If the cholesterol level increases tremendously (above 330mg/dl), the baby has an increased risk of facing high cholesterol issues later in its life

Do Low Cholesterol Levels Affect Pregnancy?

If high cholesterol levels are harmful, low cholesterol levels can also have some side effects on the developing baby. Some of the risks of low cholesterol are:

  • Women, who have low cholesterol before getting pregnant may have an increased risk of premature labor and other issues.
  • The optimum cholesterol level is crucial for the development of a healthy placenta. Insufficient cholesterol in the mother’s body may inhibit normal fetal development, leading to low birth weight and other developmental issues.
  • It can also affect the brain development of the baby.

How To Control High Cholesterol During Pregnancy?

How To Control High Cholesterol During Pregnancy_

Generally, the doctor prescribes no medicines to bring down the cholesterol level while pregnant. Taking medicines to bring down the cholesterol levels can sometimes bring it below the optimum level. Therefore, during pregnancy, medicines are prescribed only when necessary and have no risk to both the mother and child.

As explained above, low cholesterol levels can bring about several issues for the developing child. Likewise, cholesterol levels which are quite high can be harmful to the mother too making her susceptible to heart diseases or stroke. Although moderate-high levels of cholesterol while pregnant are not harmful to both the mother and the baby, it is necessary to keep the cholesterol levels from spiking.

Exercise and diet are key to help keep high cholesterol levels under control during pregnancy. Here are a few steps to manage high cholesterol while pregnant.

Consult a Nutritional Expert

It is necessary to have a balanced diet during pregnancy. It is important to have food that does not increase cholesterol levels and at the same time, you must not compromise calorie intake. A nutritional expert with a specialization in pregnancy diet can chart a diet plan that helps you to manage the high cholesterol levels while pregnant.

Find Healthy Sources of Fat

A high cholesterol level doesn’t mean that you have to stop the intake of fats. You have to meet the ‘fat’ demands of the body as it is necessary for the health of the baby. Just stick on to healthy sources like olive oil, avocados, nuts, or other healthy monounsaturated fats

A Big NO to Junk Foods

junk food

Never ever eat junk food as they are rich in saturated fats, which can further elevate cholesterol levels. Fried and processed food should be completely avoided along with carbonated beverages and beverages having caffeine in them

Increase The Intake of Fiber

Increase the intake of fiber-rich food. Both soluble and insoluble fiber in fruits and vegetables can help to control high cholesterol levels to a great extent. Therefore, include fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber. Also including whole grains and oatmeal in your daily menu can help keep cholesterol levels under check while pregnant.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise is necessary during pregnancy, especially if you have a risk of high cholesterol. But it is important that before starting a regimen, discuss it with the doctor. Most of the non-intensive workout regimens like walking and yoga will help in controlling high cholesterol during pregnancy. Meditation is also beneficial in controlling high cholesterol levels while pregnant.

It is always best to regularly discuss any lifestyle or diet changes with your doctor or dietitian. This will help your doctor to navigate you through the gestation period without significant issues.


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